How do girls in Lagos and New Delhi use technology?

Download the Goal research report here
By Savita Bailur and Sudha Vijay

Between April and June 2017, Caribou Digital were commissioned to complete a short research study for Standard Chartered’s Goal programme to understand the use of technology (particularly mobile internet) by girls aged 12-24 in New Delhi and Lagos.  Goal is Standard Chartered’s global programme which, in more than 20 countries, aims to work with girls on sports and life skills education.

The purpose of this pilot study was to understand the opportunities and risks of bringing the Goal programme online – and so, to first understand the extent of online usage by girls. Over two months, we conducted expert interviews, including with Goal staff in Nigeria and India, conducted focus groups in New Delhi and Lagos (in total of 50 girls), as well as interviewed family members and Goal staff. We also built on our Digital Days methodology, piloted in a previous Caribou project in Ghana, Kenya and Uganda.

A first major finding is that girls do enjoy Goal but are drawn to it (in our sample) because of the sports element rather than the life skills element. Second, while access to mobile phones is important for all the girls we talked to, and they are aware of privacy settings and risks associated with behaviour online, the latter is largely learned informally. There is a major gap in formal instructors for online safety or others they can talk to for advice (which we also saw in literature). The role of family is also critical in both accessing Goal and being online.  One role that requires more research is that of the brothers as gate-keepers (enablers as well as disruptors) for the girls going online. Partner staff on the ground also become key intermediaries and tend to be trusted as friends (one girl calls a coach “didi” or sister).

Goal needs to consider the implications of these findings for bringing the curriculum online. It is precisely the physical aspect of being together in a safe space that the girls enjoy – and so going online may not necessarily provide this. They enjoy the play-based approach, so this should also be emphasised. In addition, most do not have their own phones – while they do have access to phones, these are usually shared and so use is limited. While some girls enjoy chatting with others, they tend not to do so with strangers (or at least, they told us this), and other logistics might be a concern, such as chatting across timezones. Another suggestion would be to focus on a dedicated ‘safety and privacy online’ life skill module, which could also be offered to alumni and targeted at family members too. The role of brothers in particular needs to be addressed.

A final note is that these themes were limited to New Delhi and Lagos, and so there may be different findings not only in other cities in India and Nigeria but also in other Goal countries. In addition, the focus group method does favour “group-think”, and girls may not have always spoken up with their private thoughts in a quasi-public context. There were discrepancies at times between what Goal staff perceived and what girls told us (more on this in the report). This therefore requires a more in-depth study, including close ethnographic work to understand online use and behaviour of 12-24 year olds across Goal markets.

We would like to thank Ananya Basu and Adeshola Komolafe for fieldwork in New Delhi and Lagos, all our respondents within the Goal programme, Natasha Kwakwa, Payal Dalal, all staff at Naz, YEF, and those who kindly reviewed the report for us.

The authors are solely responsible for the content of this report. It does not express the views of Standard Chartered PLC.

Paying Attention to the Poor – Digital Advertising in Emerging Markets report

Today Caribou Digital releases a report, in partnership with the Mozilla Foundation, into what we consider a much neglected area.  We have seen phenomenal progress in the adoption of feature phones, smartphones and eventually internet services in emerging markets, and this has long been heralded as a boon to social and economic progress.  As adoption has grown and internet access reaches ever further to the unconnected, we have also seen a lot of innovation in new models of internet access delivery – the drones, balloons, white-space spectrum and satellite projects we profiled in our recent research into these innovations.  Fundamentally, though, the assumptions around what business models will support emerging market digital businesses have remained largely the same, and these markets have looked to the global giants of Silicon Valley for their underlying revenue streams.

This assumption that Silicon Valley business models will transfer seamlessly to emerging markets in Africa and South Asia has concerned us for some time.  These models often require vast scale to achieve the network effects and economies they require to turn a profit, and an audience at a certain level of income.  Our concern has been that we know that market scale exists in emerging markets, but we’ve not been sure that income levels support that scale.  Equally, we’re concerned that the global platforms these revenue models require are based in developed markets and are not fit for purpose in emerging markets–and if they are, will only be viable if provided by the global giants who can offset losses in developing markets with profits from developed countries, tilting the balance of power even more further in their favour and preventing local innovators from competing against them.

We initially investigated these digital economy revenue streams in our report last year with the Mozilla Foundation on the Winners and Losers in the Global App Economy.  In that report we showed that the billions of dollars flowing around the globe from app and in-app payments tend to wash up in a small number of largely developed markets, mainly the U.S.  We demonstrated through our analysis how difficult, or impossible, it was for a developer in a local app store without access to a developed-market bank account to even register for revenue sharing, let alone scale their app audience in the brutal Pareto’s principle-driven global app store market.  This prompted us to ask the question–if digital entrepreneurs can’t support themselves in emerging markets via app store income, can they at least subsidise their services via digital advertising?  This is the revenue stream that has driven Google and Facebook to being two of the largest companies in the world.  How viable is digital advertising in emerging markets as a business model to support digital services?

Our analysis highlights tremendous challenges facing digital businesses relying on advertising. First and most fundamentally, populations with low amounts of spending power are less valuable to advertisers, who simply won’t pay as much to reach them. We demonstrate this via a small study using Facebook’s advertising tool, where we showed the disparity of cost-per-click (CPC) rates between developed markets such as the U.S. ($0.77) and markets such as Nigeria ($0.04). At a macro-economic level, overall advertising spend is closely tied to a country’s economic activity (e.g., GDP), so while digital advertising is growing almost everywhere, it’s doing so by taking share from traditional media such as print. For many of the smaller economies, there’s simply not enough money flowing into advertising of any kind to support a thriving digital ad industry.

Just as importantly, digital advertising faces additional challenges due to the limits of how people experience the internet. Much of the population in emerging markets must contend with low-end devices, expensive data, and unreliable networks, which limit their ability to engage with digital content and services. These constraints make it more difficult for publishers and advertisers to reach audiences with cohesive and scalable digital campaigns.

To illustrate these challenges, we use Facebook’s advertising tool to conduct an analysis of the firm’s business worldwide. Our estimates highlight the dramatic differences in profitability across developed and emerging markets, and suggest that many of the latter are likely unprofitable. This is due to the lower rates that advertisers are willing to pay to reach these audiences, but also because hundreds of millions of Facebook users are using limited versions of the product (data-saving or zero-rated versions) and thus can’t be monetized at near the same rate as typical users.
We hope our analysis prompts other researchers and institutions to pay more attention to the fundamentals of digital advertising in emerging markets, and we see both more innovation in the market to discover what revenue streams can support digital services and also a critical engagement with the promise of advertising as a means to support services.  Firstly, a lot of the investment into internet access innovation in these markets is currently driven by Facebook and Google, and we have genuine concerns as to whether their advertising revenue streams can support the investment needed to connect the last few billion people on the planet to the internet.  The internet in emerging markets may look more like a transactional economy driven by fintech rather than an attention economy driven by advertising–which may mean looking East for viable, transferable business models, taking inspiration not from Silicon Valley but the likes of Tencent, Alibaba, and others who have a far higher proportion of transactional revenue driving their business models.
Also, if fintech products will be the driver of sustainability for internet services in emerging markets we need to ask how well those businesses can shoulder the burden.  In our current research into digital financial services, we see a lot of players aiming for zero-cost transactions in P2P markets, and an increasing credit bubble driven by new alternative data-driven lending models.  Future research from Caribou Digital will go into this in more detail to ask whether transactional revenues can carry the burden of sustainability for internet businesses.

New Internet Access business model research with DFID, USAID and Dial

We spent the best part of 2016 working on two reports that analysed the emerging new internet access business models being applied to developing markets.  One of them  – the Digital Access in Africa report we wrote with DFID – specifically looked at a range of policy and private sector issues pertaining to internet access.  In particular, this report has some interesting primary research into the usage of Facebook Zero, and offers user perspectives on its usage.

The second report is one we wrote for Dial and USAID – Closing the Access Gap – looks in more detail at what the business models and typologies of internet access are emerging, and argues what will or will not enable their success.  We think this report offers a vital tool in the business model typology and case studies, and the discussion around these.

It was fantastic to work with all three organisations, and also with the world-class expert panels we convened for both projects.  It has moved our own thinking on considerably, driven by the framework our Senior Director of Research Jonathan Donner develops in his book After Access.  I think we’ve collectively learnt a lot about what business models might, and might not, work, and since this research was completed last year our thinking internally has developed a lot.

Upcoming research from Caribou on Digital Advertising in Emerging Markets will provide yet another lens on the access topic, by investigating how likely it is that traditional methods of monetising services via the attention economy will succeed in emerging markets.  This, we hope, will provide additional analysis to these two reports by investigating whether zero-rating, ad-funded access from providers who have advertising as their primary way of monetising customers is a viable way of closing the access gap.

We’ve come a long way in looking at whether un-metered, broadband, always-on connectivity is a meaningful and viable product for low-income users, as we rightly believe that un-fettered access to an open-internet is the right goal to aim for.  But for users used to a metered-mindset, to use Jonathan Donner’s phrase, who increasingly don’t even conceptually understand what the open internet is, let alone understand why they should pay for it, the internet may look more like ‘topping up Facebook’, where access and service are inextricably linked.

For these consumers, closing the access gap may mean enveloping them within a digital platform, and a hegemonic digital ecosystem.  In future research we hope to build on the arguments within these two research reports, and ask more questions about the issues around this potential future, and also question the underlying economics of providing subsidised access in general.

Fintech innovation in action! – DFS Lab 1-week bootcamp in Dar es Salaam

The DFS Lab has reached a major milestone — we’re kicking off our first entrepreneur boot camp in Dar es Salaam!

Some of you saw this original post calling all great and aspiring fintech entrepreneurs to apply to come test their mettle in a 1 week sprint to crack a major fintech challenge. From the original post:

“This October, a select group of purpose-driven entrepreneurs will converge in Dar es Salaam for DFS Lab’s fintech bootcamp, bringing together smart, dynamic people who are building innovative products, services and technologies for low-income consumers. Using the Design Sprint Methodology, a process of structured brainstorming for answering critical business questions, entrepreneurs will go through a five day workshop to design, prototype and test new ideas. By creating quick prototypes, you can get actual feedback and see if there’s a real potential for the solution you’ve created.

This high-intensity program provides you with the very best hands-on support, guidance and mentoring to help bring your idea to life. The best ideas will receive grant funding of up to USD $100K and 6 months of additional support from the DFS Lab.”

Thanks to all of you out there who helped us spread the word about this. We had hundreds of applications and narrowed it down to a great cohort! We have 18 people from 10 countries coming from backgrounds ranging from mobile money CEO to head of innovation for a major bank to UX designer. We even have a former rapper turned engineer (DJ K80)!

We are now through Day 1 and already we see the teams getting a lot of value — both from our mentors and team but very much from each other as well. You can get a sense of the vibe on twitter here and here.

We see the bootcamp as a way to recruit and select our entrepreneurs while at the same time developing a shared purpose around which problem to attack (see the problems we posed to the participants here). What better way to get to know someone than to spend an intensive week working shoulder to shoulder? And unlike the usual grant application, it’s an application process that creates real value for our clients (the entrepreneurs).

To follow the excitement throughout the rest of the week, join on twitter @theDFSLab and #DFSLab

Opportunity for fintech entrepreneurs — up to $100k and 6 months support for your idea

Announcing a great opportunity for entrepreneurs interested in launching a developing world fintech startup! Join Caribou Digital’s DFS Lab team for a 1-week bootcamp in Dar es Salaam with top experts and win 6-months support for your concept. Here is the formal announcement and application portal:

We are the DFS Lab. We strive to create innovations that bring households in developing countries from the cash economy into the digital financial realm and give them tools to improve their lives.

This October, a select group of purpose-driven entrepreneurs will converge in Dar es Salaam for DFS Lab’s fintech bootcamp, bringing together smart, dynamic people who are building innovative products, services and technologies for low-income consumers. Using the Design Sprint Methodology, a process of structured brainstorming for answering critical business questions, entrepreneurs will go through a five day workshop to design, prototype and test new ideas. By creating quick prototypes, you can get actual feedback and see if there’s a real potential for the solution you’ve created.

This high-intensity program provides you with the very best hands-on support, guidance and mentoring to help bring your idea to life. The best ideas will receive grant funding of up to USD $100K and 6 months of additional support from the DFS Lab. The program runs for 5 days and participants are expected to arrive on Sunday, October 23, 2016 and depart on Saturday, October 28, 2016 and includes flights, healthy meals, accommodation and fun!

If you are passionate about solving problems faced by low-income consumers and believe you have what it takes, apply here.

Investment Fund launch in Oxford April 16th

Goodwell Investments and Caribou Digital will on April 16th launch a new platform at Skoll World Forum to catalyze growth of inclusive digital businesses in Africa

Africa is becoming the “mobile continent”. Fuelled by better access to the Internet, more powerful devices, and cheaper data, data traffic is growing faster in Africa than in any other continent. This digital revolution will transform Africa and create opportunities for disruptive innovations targeting complex social, environmental and development challenges.

Already, Africa’s next generation of entrepreneurs are forming digital start up communities in places like Lagos, Cape Town and Nairobi, and creating exciting new business models that improve the lives and livelihoods of low-income communities. The potential for achieving scale and impact is huge; however, limited access to funding, insufficient business development support, gaps in the start up ecosystem and dispersed talent pools constrain growth.

Join us for an intimate reception and discussion on the opportunities and challenges that digital start ups face, and learn more about an exciting new platform that Goodwell Investments and Caribou Digital are developing that will channel funding and support to catalyze the growth of inclusive digital businesses, ecosystems of support, industry dynamism and the next generation of technology leaders in Africa.

 

April 16 Goodwell Investments/Caribou Digital Event in Oxford on African Digital Economies & our new Investment Platform

Join us next week – Thursday, April 16 at Skoll World Forum 2015 – for an intimate reception and discussion on the opportunities and challenges that digital start-ups face, and learn more about an exciting new platform that Goodwell Investments and Caribou Digital are developing that will channel funding and support to catalyze the growth of inclusive digital businesses, ecosystems of support, industry dynamism and the next generation of technology leaders in Africa.
RSVP and please feel free share the invite with friends and colleagues.
Thursday, April 16 (3:30-5:30pm)
The Oxford Union
St. Michael’s Street
Oxford, UK
Please RSVP by Monday, April 13, 2015
If you have any questions please email marissa@cariboudigital.net

Watch this space

For the best part of the last year we’ve worked with Inmarsat and Dalberg to develop a proposal for a new programme promoting satellite applications in emerging markets.  

We submitted a proposal at the end of last year with Inmarsat leading a consortium including Equity Bank in Kenya, MAMA in Nigeria, the Space Applications Catapult in the UK and BRCK. We were delighted to win and are a month into the project already. 

Caribou Digital is providing the overall project director in Tim Hayward, with Kishor Nagula and Marissa Drouillard researching on the Equity Bank Kenya part of the programme.  Chris Locke is providing governance as part of the steering committee.

We’ll be researching and experimenting with new business models for Internet access in a way that drives inclusive digital economies in Kenya and Nigeria. All our work will be published here, but also on a new open data site we’re developing with the Space Application Catapult.

So, quite literally, watch this space.

Speaking, and travelling, and speaking.

We’re still incredibly busy, and will talk about the projects we’re working on as soon as clients allow.  But we can talk about the upcoming speaking engagements we’re doing, where we will be giving sneaky peeks into the results of some of our work.  If you’re going to any of these events, come and see us and say hi!

World Bank Spring Meetings – April 17-19 2015, Washington DC

Chris Locke will be speaking on a panel about big data for development

Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting – April 21-15 2015, Chicago

Bryan Pon will be presenting our paper on a synthesis of five country studies on inclusive digital economies

ICT4D 2015 – May 15-18 2015, Singapore

Jonathan Donner will be running a workshop on the Shape of Emerging Market Digital Economies

BoP Global Network Summit 2014 – July 16-17 2015, Burlington, Vermont

Jonathan Donner and Chris Locke will run a panel on Digital Economies at the base of the pyramid in partnership with Vital Wave Consulting

 

 

 

 

New Projects, New Staff

It’s been an incredibly busy start to the year here, and it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down.  While we can’t talk about all the stuff we’re working on just yet, we will be sharing every piece of research and knowledge we glean as soon as we can, and will update here on the links to the work we’re doing.  We will also be launching a dedicated research site later in the summer to host the burgeoning amount of research we’ll be publishing.

We learn equally from our analysis, academic research and delivery in the field.  The three approaches are vital to us and complement each other well.  One of the new projects we started this year is a very innovative service we’re trialling with partners, and as we do more of this and as we grow as a team, we need to have excellent staff who can manage this and make sure that everything on the projects runs smoothly.

It’s with great pleasure we can announce that Tim Hayward has joined us as Senior Director, Operations at Caribou Digital.  He’s the leading programme director on one of our key delivery projects at the moment and will lead on all the delivery projects we have.  I’ve worked with him a lot over the past four years and it’s been great, so I’m very glad to have the chance to continue to work with him.